Tibet and China clash over next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso - XIV Dalai Lama

A couple of years ago, during a meeting of Tibetan leaders in Dharamshala in India, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was asked about his reincarnation. Addressing the room of monks, religious teachers and Tibetan politicians, the Dalai Lama asked them to look into his eyes. “Do you think it’s time now?” he asked.

It was a meeting that would end with the Tibetan leaders agreeing that the issue of reincarnation was one that would be decided only by the Dalai Lama himself. But China, which annexed Tibet in 1951 and has retained tight control over the region ever since, has other ideas. It insists that the choice of the next Dalai Lama lies only with China, and have even enshrined this right into Chinese law.

The Dalai Lama, who recently turned 86, has insisted that discussions of his death are premature (according to his own visions, he will live to 113). But a power struggle for who will choose his reincarnation after he dies has already begun.

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